The university degree on the job

Salaries, effectiveness, employment: AlmaLaurea analyses the employment performance of graduates with master's degrees five years after graduation.
24 August 2017

Five years after earning a degree, graduates are working in 84% of cases, more than half being employed with open-ended contracts, the share of self-employed close to 20%. Employments rates and salaries are highest for graduates in health professions and engineers.

These are the data from the 19th AlmaLaurea Report on the Employment Status of Graduates, showing how a university education continues to be an investment against unemployment, especially in the long run. In fact, between one and five years all the indicators examined - employment rate, unemployment rate, type of work, salary - significantly improve for all disciplinary groups under consideration, proving the effectiveness of the degree in the medium term.


The profile of two-year masters five years after graduation*

Employment status

The AlmaLaurea Report, which involved more than 75,000 2011 master's graduates at five years from graduation, reveals that the employment rate is equal to 84%. Between one year after graduation and five years the percentage increases significantly, from 72% to 84%.

Graduates of health professions and engineering disciplines show the best employment performance, with an employment rate of over 90%. Next, graduates of economics-statistics groups (89%), science (88%), chemistry and architecture (86% for both).

Just below the average, however, are the employed with language, political-social, agricultural and physical education degrees (all around 82%).

Below average employment rates were found for those graduating in psychology (79%), teaching (77%), geology-biology and law (76% for both) and literature (75%), demonstrating how employment difficulties are not reserved exclusively for the humanities.

The unemployment rate at five years from graduation is equal to 9%, the highest rates being in literature (15%), law and geology-biology (14% for both), teaching (13%), psychology, political-social science and agriculture (11% in all three cases). In contrast, graduates of health professions and engineering have a physiological unemployment rate of 3%, and also below average are the scientific and economic-statistic groups (6% for both).


Types of employment

Among the graduates of 2011 who were involved in the five-year graduation survey, 56% of them have open-ended contracts (including so-called "a tutele crescenti" contracts), 30% more than when they were contacted one year after earning their degrees.

The share of self-employed workers has also grown, at five years from graduation representing 18% of the employed (11% higher than the same graduates after one year of earning their degrees).

79% of graduates of health professions are hired with open-ended contracts. These are followed by 76% of engineers, 68% of graduates in the teaching group and 65% in the statistics-economics disciplines. Slightly more than 60% of graduates in chemistry, science and social-political sciences have such contracts.

At the other end of the range are graduates in architecture, law, physical education and psychology, all with less than 35% having open-ended contracts.
It is true that the graduates of these groups are the most self-employed: five years after graduation self-employment accounts for 53% of law graduates, 52% for architects and 38% for psychologists.



Overall, five years after graduation those with a master's degree earn an average monthly net salary of 1,405 euros. Graduates of engineering and health professions can count on the highest salaries: respectively 1,717 and 1,509 euros. Higher than average wages also for colleagues in the economics-statistics, chemistry and science groups (more than 1,500 euros for all).

On the other hand, graduates in psychology, literature and teaching do not exceed 1,200 euros per month. These are disciplines generally studied by young women who generally go on to the world of teaching, a sector known for its low salaries. Even the wages of graduates of physical education and law are significantly lower than the average.


Effectiveness of the degree on the job

The assessment of the value of the degree in the labour market and the use of the skills acquired at the university confirm a complex and articulated picture. Five years from graduation, the course of study is deemed to have been effective for more than half of graduates (54%).

The highest values ​​are achieved among graduates of law (71%), architecture and science (64% for both). These are followed by the employed who studied chemistry and physical education (63% for both), psychology (62%), geology-biology (61%), agriculture (60%), engineering and teaching (59% for both). Below average effectiveness was found by political-social science graduates (35%), literature (46%) and health professions (48% - these are graduates with careers in hospitals).





* Due to the nature of single-cycle master programmes - architecture, medicine, law, veterinary medicine, pharmacology, primary education sciences, conservation and restoration of cultural assets - characterised by a high level of continuing education with pre-service training at the start of professional careers (e.g., on-the-job training, specialisations, internships), the analysis focused solely on the employment performance of two-year master graduates.


Available translations for this content: